Following Jesus is risky business. Choosing Him requires rejecting any other form of comfort or salvation, even that which promises immediate relief or satisfaction. Tweet this! In the face of persecution, the risk may appear even scarier. If we are to endure to the end, we don’t have a choice but to be willing to risk faith, life, and even our lifestyles. Tweet this!
Saul of Tarsus is a most famous persecutor in the Bible, known and feared by the New Testament church. When he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus and was blinded, the Lord appeared to a disciple in Damascus named Ananias and instructed him to go to the house where Saul was taken to lay hands on him so his sight would be restored. Ananias responded to the Lord in fear: “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name” (Acts 9:10-14).
In other words, he’s saying, “But God…”
Isn’t that often our first response when God tells us what He wants us to do? “But God, what if I lose my home, my business, my family, my followers, my friends, my reputation, my popularity, my life?” etc., etc.
In order to obey the Lord in the face of persecution, Ananias had to risk faith. He had to risk believing the Lord and that He would take care of him in his obedience. Tweet this!
We do too.
But there’s a flip side of “But God.”
“But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake’” (Acts 9:15-16).
We say, “But God” as a way to excuse our “No!” and explain to Him why we can’t or aren’t the right choice. His “but God” is the fact that He makes all things possible. Tweet this! Without God, it isn’t possible. “But God” and it is.
“And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized” (Acts 9:17-18).
All Ananias did was what he was told. He said what God said. When he did, scales fell from Saul’s eyes. Something radically changed and God began a radical work in and through Him.
When we risk faith and obey God, GOD does the radical. Tweet this!
Later in Acts, it’s Peter’s turn to risk faith: “Then the angel said to him, ‘Gird yourself and tie on your sandals’; and so he did. And he said to him, ‘Put on your garment and follow me.’ So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision” (Acts 12:8-9).
As Peter did, we must do as God says. Risking faith is simply getting ready: gird ourselves, put on our shoes, get dressed, and follow Him! Tweet this! Girding is both fastening our garments on AND equipping ourselves with the knowledge of the truth: the knowledge that fuels our faith! Tweet this!
You see, we may not know at the time what God is doing. We just have to do as we’re told. Peter didn’t even know what was happening was real until after the miracle of his release was complete. Still others risked faith, never to see the promise:
Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. All of these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us (Hebrews 11:35-40).
Nothing God does in His people is apart from His plan for all His people. Tweet this!
These men and women of faith suffered the unimaginable not for the realization of the promise to them but to us! Do you see it? The suffering God asks us to endure may not be for our own benefit, but for others, and our faith must be in God and His plan. We have to risk faith in Him, or we won’t endure what He may require of us. Tweet this!
Faith is so important that Romans 14:23 says, “whatever is not from faith is sin.” Tweet this! Likewise, Hebrews 11:6 declares, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
It starts and ends with faith. We must have faith to be saved, and we must continue in faith to endure to the end. Tweet this!
Risk our lives and lifestyles.
In Acts 20:22-24, Paul compares the ministry God gives us to a race, revealing the key to finishing with joy: be unmoved by chains and tribulations and do not count our own life dear. He didn’t cling to his life or things of this world, and along with Barnabas in Acts 15:25-26, they “risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Our ministry is the same as theirs: to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. In imparting the gospel, God requires that we impart our lives (1 Thessalonians 2:8), and not just our lives, but our lifestyles. Tweet this! It is Romans 12:1-2:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
If we present ourselves a living sacrifice, we are at the mercy of God. We are at His mercy to lay all things on the altar, even the things we hold most dear. Tweet this! Like Paul, can we say: “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13)?
The narrow path to life and victory is the same for all who are His:
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death (Revelation 12:11).
Jesus’ blood saves us. We testify of Jesus and His salvation. We do so to the forsaking of our own lives. And we overcome!
Following Jesus is a risk, but when we weigh the alternative, the true risk is in NOT following Him. Tweet this!
Loving our lives and clinging to the things of this world, that brings true death. For even if we die for Christ, we live forever in Him, and that IS life! Tweet this!
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Lord, thank You that any risk You require, You equip us and reward us. You are faithful, and we risk not just our faith in You, but our lives and lifestyles. Thank You that in Christ, we are more than conquerers, able to overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony.
FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION
1. When the Lord instructs Ananias to go to Saul of Tarsus, a most famous persecutor of Christians, Ananias gives God a “But God.” God answers Him with a “But God” of His own: His plan and purpose for the man God knew Saul would be in Christ. Paul. What “But God” are you answering God with today? Is He calling you to do something that seems impossible? What is it? What is God’s “But God” to you?
2. Faith is so important that Romans 14:23 says, “whatever is not from faith is sin.” Likewise, Hebrews 11:6 declares, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” What holds you back from risking faith? Do you struggle with worry, which is another word for unbelief? Is risking faith worth being rewarded by God?
3. Romans 12:1-2 instructs us, “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” We might have to risk our lives and our lifestyles to follow Jesus. What are you holding on to that He might need you to release in order to fully follow after Him?